Possible rewrite: Detroit School District Considers Policy Change to Minimize Classroom Disruptions

Officials in the Detroit school district are proposing a standardization of the transfer process for students and families who want to switch between district schools during the school year. 

According to Nikolai Vitti, the superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools Community District, the new policy guidance seeks to address potential disruptions to classroom learning when students consider leaving a school midway through the academic year, whether due to relocation or dissatisfaction with their current school. 

At a DPSCD school board policy committee meeting on Tuesday, Vitti stated, “What we’re trying to do is create better overall guidelines to encourage families to transfer their students at the beginning of quarters and semesters. This will assist teachers in managing their classrooms and principals and administrators in establishing the right climate and culture.”

He also mentioned, “It doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t allow students to transfer at certain times if they’re new to the neighborhood or if there are unique circumstances within the family.”

The policy committee has agreed to move the policy draft forward to the next school board meeting on Nov. 14 for a first reading by the entire board. All district policies need to be reviewed twice by the board before they can be voted on.

The issue of frequent school transfers has been an ongoing problem in Michigan school districts, where state policy allows families to easily switch schools during the school year. In a 2018 investigation on student mobility, Detroit families reported to Bridge Michigan and Outlier Media that they moved their children to different schools due to academic struggles, school discipline issues, family relocations, and new job opportunities.

According to Vitti, approximately 11% of DPSCD students transfer between district schools in an average school year, while about 30% transfer to different school districts.

In recent months, DPSCD officials have been considering policies regarding administrative transfers, where school officials initiate the transfer. In July, school board members approved an update to the district’s code of conduct, giving school officials more flexibility to transfer students for disciplinary reasons. The following month, the policy committee reviewed a proposal that would allow officials at application schools to request a transfer for a student to a neighborhood school if the student has excessive absences and previous outreach efforts have been unsuccessful.

However, the policy introduced at the Tuesday meeting is not intended to be punitive. Its purpose is to enhance communication with families about when and how to proceed with a transfer. If approved, DPSCD officials would inform families of the preferred transfer window through letters and phone calls. The policy does not specify how much advance notice a student or their family should give to school officials regarding a transfer.

The policy would not interfere with transfers to application or exam schools. Students wishing to transfer to such schools typically need to do so within a specific application window.

The proposed language was recommended by board members prior to the policy meeting on Tuesday. Board members Misha Stallworth West and Iris Taylor both revealed receiving complaints from parents about unclear communication concerning student transfers.

The transfer policy would align with the district’s existing policies on school enrollment, transportation, and administrative transfers. According to these policies, transfers to a requested school can be denied based on enrollment capacity or program restrictions. Families are responsible for arranging transportation for their students to and from a new school if they are not eligible for a school bus ride.